The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on business has been well documented, but many sectors have seen little to no impact. With food-supplies needing to be maintained the UK farming industry has, on paper at least, been impervious to lockdown measures. We spoke with Andrew Wright, an expert in farm insurance, to take a closer look at the implications of the virus on UK farms and what, if any, changes they need to take as we emerge into our new normal.
Andrew, can you tell us what impact COVID-19 has had on the farming industry?
“During the pandemic, farming has been classed as an essential trade. So to many farmers it’s been business as usual. Although it has not been without issues. For example, uncollected milk for dairy farmers, which is something that has been happening around the country due to a fall in demand from the hospitality sector
“Similarly, with arable farming there’s been delays in in the supply of inputs; fertilisers, crop protection, etc.”
Are farmers insured for these factors?
“There is a possible extension for the loss of milk under a farm insurance policy. So if your policy has been arranged and you’ve asked for this extension there may be some cover.
“With regards to delays in supply, unfortunately this is something that would not be insured under a standard farming policy, so we would recommend regular contact with the suppliers to ensure that goods are readily available as and when you need them.”
The Government have now issued guidance on returning to work and ensuring a safe environment, but farms have been trading throughout the pandemic. Do they now need to be reviewing the new guidance and amending their working practises accordingly? Social distancing at work and cleaning practices, for example? Or is it business as usual?
“Every business will need to adhere to the new rules regarding risk assessments, cleaning, social distancing etc. Cleaning practices will need to be increased and enhanced for example. With the lockdown easing they are likely to be having more visitors coming onto site, so it is important that they ensure that they have reviewed their entire health and safety processes.”
So are farms allowed to have contractors come onto site now?
“Yes they can still have contractors working on the farm. We obviously recommended that they adhere to the two metre guidelines wherever possible and limit any person to person contact. Create pick-up and drop-off points, ensure regular hand-washing and do everything they can to ensure machinery and equipment is not shared.
“Likewise, if they’re going on to third-party land we recommended that they maintain social distancing rules and consider personal hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus.”
The guidance indicates that every business has to have a specific COVID-19 risk assessment completed. Do farms need to complete this as soon as possible?
“Yes, definitely. The business owner, or designated H&S manager, should be undertaking these risk assessments and ensuring that the workplace is fit for purpose and fit for the people coming on site as well as their employees. Alan Boswell Risk Management can help with this if needed.”
Are there any changes to other Health and Safety protocols? Do equipment inspections need to continue?
“Your existing H&S obligations haven’t changed, so yes, all equipment needs to be maintained and fit for purpose. Duty holders are legally responsible to ensure that these goods are inspected as they have always done. Our own risk management team and other inspection companies are still carrying out statutory inspections. So, if for any reason these have been delayed those pieces of equipment should not be used.”
A lot of farms are now diversifying; farm shops, for example, where they’ve got the general public accessing their sites. Are there any specific considerations they should be making?
“There has been a massive increase in the number of people using footpaths, some of which go through the actual farm yards themselves. This is going to be difficult to police – but we recommend that signage is put in place to ensure social distancing and that people are closing gates. We’d also recommend that gates are cleaned regularly.
“With regards to diversifying we’d recommend speaking to your insurance broker to ensure that the insurers are aware as to what you’re doing and making sure that your liability insurance will cover you.”
Alan Boswell Group provide farm insurance throughout the UK. If you would like to talk to someone about your insurance requirements please call us on 01603 218000 or click here for more details.